Softball team sets national record
Establishing a program record is certainly noteworthy.
Eclipsing a national standard, however, is headline-worthy.
St. Xavier University's softball team got a chance to accomplish both feats last Wednesday. Although visiting Judson University scored one run in each end of a Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference doubleheader, it waited until the fourth inning to do so in the opener.
And by blanking the Eagles for the first 3 1/3 frames, the Cougars surpassed California Baptist's four-year-old national mark for consecutive shutout innings by that same amount. SXU is now No. 1 in NAIA annals with 60 2/3 scoreless innings in a row.
And by virtue of their 3-1 and 6-1 victories, the No. 9-ranked Cougars stretched their winning streak to 21 games, which bettered by two the school standard that was set in 2013.
The record setting didn't stop there, either. Senior pitcher Megan Nonnemacher's Game 1 win gave her 80 for her collegiate career, which equaled SXU's all-time best individual effort. In raising her season ledger to 17-1, Nonnemacher tossed a five-hitter and struck out six.
Even with Nonnemacher providing another sterling display in the pitching circle, the Cougars needed to rally. They expunged a 1-0 deficit in the sixth stanza, using RBI singles from junior Shannon Lauret and freshman Franchesca Graffeo, plus junior Megan James' sacrifice fly to get on the board.
SXU jumped in front early in Game 2, as RBI hits from Graffeo and junior Katie Sears staked it to a 2-0 edge in the second inning. Two more runs were tallied in the fifth, courtesy of a Judson error and senior DH Ariel Hinton's sacrifice fly.
Sophomore Nicole Nonnemacher — who fanned 16 Eagles, walked no one and allowed just four hits in gaining the pitching victory — contributed a run-scoring triple on the offensive side in the sixth. She then crossed the plate herself on junior Amanda Hainlen's bunt.
Megan Nonnemacher was feted by both the NAIA and CCAC for her work during the week ending on Easter by being chosen as the Pitcher of the Week for each entity. She received the awards within hours of one another.
Nonnemacher's sister, Nicole, was similarly recognized in the week ending March 18.
Megan Nonnemacher threw three shutouts, allowed just seven hits and struck out 23 batters in 23 innings to earn her dual honors. She held opponents to a .091 average over that span and issued only seven bases-on-balls.
The whitewashes gave her a career-best 11 for the season. Nonnemacher, who sports a 17-1 record, currently ranks fifth in the NAIA in earned-run average (0.71) and eighth in opponents' batting average (.160).
In a showdown for CCAC supremacy, Olivet got the upper hand on SXU last Thursday. The No. 4-ranked Tigers, who entered the doubleheader tied for first with the Cougars, won the opener 5-2 to snap the latter's 21-game unbeaten streak.
Game 2 was stopped by darkness after eight innings with the score tied at 2-all. That deadlock halted Olivet's NAIA-leading 43-game win streak, but the Tigers still earned both the top seed in the CCAC Tournament and regular-season crown by virtue of their earlier triumph.
Olivet built a 4-0 advantage in Game 1 on Lindsey Krippel's three-run homer and Erika Tatum's RBI double, both of which came in the first two innings. Sears' single and Nicole Nonnemacher's sacrifice fly shaved the deficit in half in the sixth, but SXU could get no closer.
Megan Nonnemacher suffered just her second loss in 19 pitching decisions despite striking out nine. She gave up seven hits, four more than the Cougars mustered.
Game 2 remained scoreless into the fourth, when Nicole Nonnemacher smacked a one-out double and Hainlen blasted a two-run homer. That lead lasted until Krippel went deep with her own two-run shot in the sixth.
SXU loaded the bases with one out in the seventh, but had its rally stifled by a double play. The Cougars then escaped jams of their own in the bottom of the seventh and eighth.
Nicole Nonnemacher fanned 10 and scattered seven hits while going the distance in the circle.
Senior Katie Houlihan and freshman Savannah Kinsella both had three-hit days as the Cougars split a nonconference doubleheader with Purdue University Calumet last Friday at Community Park in Munster, Ind. SXU grabbed the opener 4-2 before dropping a 1-0 verdict in Game 2.
Houlihan's fielder's choice and Lauret's double staked the Cougars to a 2-0 lead in the second inning of Game 1. After the Peregrines tallied once in the bottom of that same frame, SXU responded with junior Sarah Saunders' RBI hit to re-establish a two-run cushion, and the Cougars also answered one other PUC rumbling by taking advantage of a seventh-inning throwing error to set the final margin.
Megan Nonnemacher earned the win by scattering eight hits and striking out seven.
Nicole Nonnemacher's 13-strikeout, two-hit gem was wasted in the second game as SXU could not break through on the scoreboard despite collecting seven hits. Houlihan and Kinsella both stroked a pair of hits for the Cougars, who left eight runners stranded.
The Peregrines used a second-inning solo homer to create their margin of victory.
SXU swept two games from Siena Heights (Mich.) University on Saturday, with a 4-0 Game 2 triumph representing the Cougars' 27th whitewash of the season. They also defeated the host school 6-2 in the opener.
Nicole Nonnemacher pitched the shutout to raise her record to 17-3. She gave up just three hits and fanned 10, although Siena Heights did coax an uncharacteristically high five walks from her.
Supporting Nonnemacher offensively were sophomore Kasey Kanaga (3-for-4, one RBI), James (two hits, triple, two RBI, one run) and Houlihan (RBI single).
Siena Heights struck first in the opener and was ahead 2-1 after two innings, but Hainlen's RBI single in the third pulled SXU even. The Cougars then went ahead to stay with a four-run outburst in the fourth, a rally highlighted by Sears' two-RBI double.
Megan Nonnemacher garnered her 20th victory of the year by tossing a five-hitter with four strikeouts.
SXU (42-5-1) completed its regular schedule on Sunday with yet another doubleheader sweep, this latest one coming at Concordia (Mich.) University's expense by scores of 4-3 and 4-0.
The Nonnemachers once again stood tall in the pitching circle. Megan Nonnemacher whiffed six and tossed a four-hitter to win the opener, while sister Nicole threw a one-hitter and fanned five to complete the sweep. Nicole Nonnemacher increased her career strikeout total to 503, second all-time in Cougars annals behind Megan Nonnemacher's 693.
Kinsella went 4-for-7 on the day with a double, two runs and one RBI to spark SXU's attack. Her RBI single was part of a four-run third inning that gave the Cougars their Game 1 victory. Also contributing to that uprising was Kanaga, who was hit by a pitch with the bases filled.
Kinsella, Hinton (double), Graffeo and James were SXU's RBI people in the second contest.
The Cougars host the CCAC Tournament starting today. They'll enter the event as the No. 2 seed behind Olivet.
After trailing Cardinal Stritch University by just two strokes heading into Day 2 of the CCAC Championship, the Cougars overtook the Wolves to capture the tournament title by seven shots last Tuesday and, with it, secure an automatic berth in the NAIA Men's Golf National Championships.
The 63rd annual national tournament will take place May 13-16 at LPGA International Golf Course in Daytona Beach, Fla.
SXU posted a team score of 618 (310-318) to beat out 11 other conference squads at George Dunne National Golf Course in Oak Forest. Junior Kyle Bahnick carded a two-day score of 151 (76-75) to tie for the top spot among individuals, while senior James Kerr (153; 79-74) finished in a tie for third. Seniors Kirby Brown (157; 78-79) and Brendan Ryan (158; 78-80) completed the Cougars' scoring by tying for the Nos. 7 and 9 positions, respectively.
Freshman Robert Lively (162; 78-84) was 20th for SXU. A total of 58 individual golfers competed in the CCAC event.
“Our goal from the beginning of starting our program two years ago was to win our conference [and] make it to the national championship with the team that started it all off,” Cougars coach Mike Mandakas said. “I’m very proud of all eight players on our team, as we have had a great year. This comeback victory will give us some momentum going into the national championship.”
Freshman Taylor Thompson overcame a four-stroke deficit entering Day 2 of the CCAC Championship by firing a final-round 79, and that effort was enough to lift her to the individual title last Thursday at Gleneagles Golf Course in Lemont.
"Taylor played great all season long, but grew up real fast when everything was on the line," Mandakas said. "We made it her goal from the beginning of the season to win the conference championship in her freshman season.
"She is improving every tournament and I'm excited to see how many more victories she has [forthcoming] in her young collegiate golf career."
Thompson's two-day total was 160. With two other golfers also placing among the top 20, the Cougars took fifth in the team standings with a cumulative 785 score. Olivet Nazarene captured the title with a 671.
SXU's other high finishers were freshmen Courtney Dudgeon (182; 91-91) and Katie Reno (191; 89-102), who wound up tied for 14th and 20th place, respectively. Rounding out the Cougars' scoring was freshman Ashley Anderson, who carded a 252 (130-122), which landed her in the 31st position.
The Cougars suffered a pair of one-run setbacks last Tuesday, as Olivet Nazarene University swept a CCAC doubleheader, 4-3 and 5-2, at Watson Field in Bourbonnais.
SXU (18-25, 12-10) managed only four hits in the opener, which made things difficult for Cougars pitcher Scott Vachon. The senior scattered eight hits and walked only one while whiffing three batters.
Sophomore Alec Barnhart had one hit and scored twice for SXU, while junior Bryan Villanova tallied the Cougars' other run. The latter also hit safely once. SXU's markers came on two Tigers errors and a successful double steal.
The Cougars grabbed a 2-0 lead at the outset, but Olivet pulled even in its initial at-bat. Single runs in the third and sixth innings put the Tigers ahead to stay, as SXU left the bags filled after plating its final run in the top of the seventh.
Barnhart's groundout and senior Chris Klein's sacrifice fly gave the Cougars another 2-0 advantage in Game 2, and junior hurler Dan Wetzel protected that lead into the sixth. However, Olivet made plenty of noise during its next trip to the plate and piled up all five of its runs.
SXU narrowed the gap to 5-4 on RBI hits from seniors Tom Keating and Brad Myjak (double) in the eighth, but it went down in order in the ninth. Wetzel struck out five and surrendered eight hits in a losing effort on the hill.
Klein's three hits, which included a solo homer in the fourth inning, lifted the Cougars to a 5-1 nonconference victory over Purdue University Calumet last Thursday.
SXU finished with 13 hits in nine innings. Also contributing multiple-hit days were Barnhart (double, two runs) and Keating (double, two RBI, one run).
Keating's two-bagger and freshman Bryan Polak's single handed the Cougars a 2-0 lead in the third. Klein drove in SXU's next two markers with his round-tripper and an RBI single in the sixth, then Keating completed the Cougars' scoring with his eighth-inning single, which followed Barnhart's double.
Senior Dan Maton threw four innings of scoreless relief and was credited with the pitching victory. He struck out three and allowed just two hits. Freshman Adrian Luna fanned four in two stanzas of work.
Fifteen hits led to eight runs for the Cougars in Game 1 of a Saturday twinbill, but after posting an 8-2 victory over Robert Morris University, they were unable to complete a sweep. Instead, the Eagles earned a split with a 10-0 romp in the second contest.
SXU was up 5-0 by the fourth frame, courtesy of clutch hits from Myjak (two-run single) and Klein (RBI double), plus sacrifice flies from Barnhart and junior Damon Softecheck. After Robert Morris tallied once in the fourth, the Cougars put the game away with three more runs in the sixth as Barnhart (two-RBI single) and Myjak (sacrifice fly) led the charge.
Klein was the winning pitcher as he fired a six-hitter, struck out nine and walked no one in a route-going performance.
Six hits was all SXU could muster in Game 2, and those weren't enough to save it from defeat. Villanova claimed two of the Cougars' safeties.
The Eagles, meanwhile, piled up 16 hits, including four that went for extra bases. They scored at least one run in every inning but the fifth.
Vachon, who was one of five seniors honored in a pregame ceremony on Sunday, delivered a timely performance on the hill as he struck out six and scattered seven hits versus Robert Morris.
Most importantly, he blanked the Eagles over nine innings, which ensured that the run SXU tallied in the second inning held up as the difference in a 1-0 triumph. That victory gave the Cougars (20-26, 14-11) a one-game lead over Robert Morris for second place in the CCAC North Division standings.
Polak went 4-for-4 with two stolen bases to pace SXU's offense. He also accounted for the contest's lone marker when he crossed the plate on the front end of a successful double steal executed along with freshman Ryan Pellack.
Other hitting notables for the Cougars were Klein and Keating, both of whom swatted doubles off Eagles hurler Kyle Bledsoe.
SXU was to wrap up its regular season this past Tuesday with a conference doubleheader against Purdue-North Central.